Despite obsessive brushing, flossing and mouthwashing, your mouth is (and will always be) filled with bacteria. Lots of them. These bugs play a role in determining if you’ll get cavities, gum disease and maybe even oral cancer. Of course what you eat and how often you drag yourself to the dentist can impact who sets up camp in your chomper, but do your genes have a say, too? New research says yes, and that the particular mix is specific to your ethnicity.
Rinse, Spit, Repeat
Researchers collected spit and plaque samples from 100 Americans who fell into four ethnic categories: non-Hispanic blacks, non-Hispanic whites, Chinese and Latinos. Every one of the participants had two percent of their bacteria in common—what the researchers called a core community.
Beyond that, though, each individual’s microbiome was unique, like a fingerprint. Even more surprising was the fact that each ethnicity showed a unique mix of bacterial species that populated the mouths of each of its 25 individuals. Science Daily quoted the researcher saying,
“This is the first time it has been shown that ethnicity is a huge component in determining what you carry in your mouth. We know that our food and oral hygiene habits determine what bacteria can survive and thrive in our mouths, which is why your dentist stresses brushing and flossing. Can your genetic makeup play a similar role? The answer seems to be yes, it can,” said Purnima Kumar.
Such signatures could predispose people to particular diseases, and help dentists prescribe patient-specific care. It may not be fun—what oral hygiene ever is?—but it could be more effective than the typical “brush and floss” mantra.
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